This is one of a suite of four screenprints (see Tate P78718-20) Long made from direct contact with the surfaces of slabs of slate and limestone. Slate Drawing One, as its title indicates, is based on a pencil rubbing taken from textured slate. The drawing was turned into a screenprint using a photo-separation process and printed using repeated additions of ink until the image had reached the tonal balance required by the artist. The portfolio was printed by Advanced Graphics, London and published by Ridinghouse Editions, London, in an edition of forty plus ten artist’s proofs. Tate’s copy is the seventh in the edition.
All Long’s work is based on his contact with the natural landscape. His most famous work, A Line Made by Walking 1967 (Tate P07149), is a photograph of a narrow path in a field created by the artist’s action of walking repeatedly back and forth. Long’s walks in wilderness locations generate documentation in the form of text, maps and photographs. The text and map works usually record the walk through some form of measurement or listing. The photographs record the artist’s transitory trace on the landscape in the form of collected stones or plant material arranged in heaps, circles or lines. Water may be poured in jagged lines over the landscape or, as in A Line Made by Walking, the artist may wear a path in grass by repeatedly walking back and forth. Long makes sculptural installations from rocks taken from quarries, twigs collected at particular locations and other elemental or natural materials. These are arranged in simple, geometric configurations on the floor. Stone is one of the artist’s preferred materials and he has said that he likes the ‘idea that stones are what the world is made of’ (quoted in Richard Long: Circles Cycles Mud Stones, p.24). Mud, consisting of powdered stone and water, is another favoured material. Long uses mud to create temporary drawings on the wall or floor, making gestural splashes and smears with his hands or more controlled hand and foot prints. Untitled 1991 (Tate T06555) is a permanent mud drawing created by dipping paper in mud and then suspending it vertically, creating a pattern of white streaks as a result of the mud’s vertical flow and the simultaneous evaporation of the water in the mud.
The process of imprinting the rock’s surface carried out in the Slate and Limestone Drawings recalls an earlier series of prints. Untitled 1994 (Tate P77828-P77830) is a suite of three lithographic prints made from the impression of the artist’s index finger in a thick, mud-like material in geometric patterns. The Slate and Limestone Drawings have something of the character of a fingerprint: the striations of texture recorded by the artist’s pencil lines as they run over the exposed area of rock recall the lines and grooves engraved on human skin by time and contact with the elements. Just as a fingerprint is unique to each person, Long’s rubbings are unique to each section of rock and indicate differences in the structural constituents of slate and limestone. The Drawings also contain the artist’s imprint in the lines he has drawn, characterised by the spaces between them and the pressure he applied to the paper.
Richard R. Brettell, Dana Friis-Hansen, Richard Long: Circles Cycles Mud Stones, exhibition catalogue, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston 1996
Richard Long: Walking in Circles, exhibition catalogue, South Bank Centre, London 1991
Richard Long: Walking the Line, London 2002, reproduced inside front and back cover